Thrust Areas


The objective is to develop new methods and tools that more closely integrate engineering design with engineering analysis, manufacturing, supply chain, maintenance, and sustainability, and the end user. Research in this area focuses on integration of information, knowledge, tools, and models across the product lifecycle to enable innovative designs, decreased time to market, and reduced total lifecycle costs. Industrial Relevance:Disrupting the traditional siloes of design, manufacturing, maintenance, and lifecycle processes with emerging methods (e.g., digital thread). Developments in these areas will lead to increased innovation in designs and manufacturing processes, decreased time to market for new and innovative products, and reduced total lifecycle costs for the developed products. Capabilities:

  • Design for X-abilities. For example, design for manufacture-ability (legacy and developing processes, such as subtractive, additive, hybrid manufacturing, assembly), use-ability (usability), recycle-ability, automation, maintain-ability, sustain-ability, and end of lifeDirect participation of customers
  • Tools, processes, methodologies, and procedures that feed the data and information along the product digital thread forward and backward to provide insight to each function along the chain.
  • Interoperability tools and methods for remote and heterogeneous systems.
  • Engineered tools with scalability, extensibility, and portability.
  • Collaboration among all stakeholders throughout the life cycle


The objective is to explore and develop new software, hardware, information modeling approaches (e.g., ontologies), and secure data handling processes and storage, necessary to improve product development processes used by corporations and their supply chains. Industrial Relevance: Industry generates significant and proprietary data which could be better leveraged to improve their processes. Strong and secure infrastructure provides a foundation for intelligent, integrated, and innovative strategies (e.g., big data analytics, cloud computing) to improve design, manufacturing, and maintenance of complex products. Future employees with skills and experience in data analytics and computational processes add value to the enterprise. Capabilities:

  • Cloud Computing
  • Cloud-based digital manufacturingProduct behavior models
  • Internet of Things, Services and People
  • Information Security
  • Universally available accessible technical data package (TDP)
  • Dynamic remote real-time collaboration


The objective of this research thrust is to develop new engineering design processes and methodologies to improve creativity and innovation in design of products, systems, production systems, and supply chains. Research in this area focuses on collaboration tools, measuring and improving creativity in designs of products and service systems, and social centric design processes. Industrial Relevance: Innovative designs, design tools, and methods result in more desirable products and services, produced at lower cost and reduced time to market. This capability leads to increased, longer-term market share and improved customer capabilities. Capabilities:

  • Technologies enabling collaborative design and the participation of others in the design process
  • Measuring, analyzing, and improving creativity as a process, and an outcome.
  • Social-centric design practices (crowd-sourced design, collaborative design, etc.)
  • Customer interaction with products and services)


The objective of this research thrust is to develop methods that enable better and faster decision making through intelligent, data/information-driven and model-based systems. Research in this area focuses on tools, methods, algorithms, and application areas such as cloud-based digital design and manufacturing, sensors and sensor networks, supply chain modeling and analysis and Internet of Things. Industrial Relevance: Leverage or drive advances in computing and analytics infrastructure, advanced algorithms, methods and tools to provide critical decision making information to the right person at the right time. This focus addresses the needs of industry to effectively use large amounts of data and information to improve design quality, innovation, and time to market. Capabilities:

  • Technologies enabling collaborative design and the participation of others in the design process
  • Supply chain modeling and analysis
  • Sensors and sensor networks
  • Analytics for complex data sets
  • Smart manufacturing systems development
  • Product life cycle optimization
  • Internet of Things utilization

Design Education

The objective of the Design Education research thrust is to prepare and support students and practitioners to take on current and future challenges in engineering design. Research in this area focuses on improving design pedagogy through training on new design tools and method, integrating design thinking into engineering design processes, and providing training on and understanding decision making under uncertainty in local, distant, and distributed learning environments. The ultimate goal of this thrust is to prepare individuals for careers in intelligent product and system design, development, and realization. Industrial relevance:This thrust is critical for industry as the premise is to transform the way engineers think, act and analyze as they engineer new and/or improved products, systems and processes. A state-of-the-art education that prepares and trains future and current engineers in design thinking is imperative to the competitiveness of the nation. With such training, engineers will be better prepared to: tolerate ambiguity; embrace and demonstrate expertise in systems thinking and systems design; handle uncertainty; make decisions; work as part of a team in a social process; and think and communicate in varied modes and models of design. This new knowledge will better prepare engineers to contribute the solutions required to solve industry’s complex, interdependent design product realization challenges. Capabilities:

  • Educational courses, modules, and workshops on a wide variety of topics associated with design education (design thinking). These can be targeted to K-12, colleges/universities, industry, and/or government, or can be widely applicable.
  • Example design education research and development topics:
  • Team-based learning
  • Conceptual design methods and tools
  • Creativity and innovation
  • Distributed collaboration
  • Communication Skills
  • Interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary collaboration
  • Systems thinking
  • Decision making methods and tools
  • Complexity and uncertainty
  • Immersive environments
  • Gaming and Learning